Tips & Tipples for Your Valentine's Day Promotion

Cupid's Daiquiri made by Kala Ellis with Uncle Nearest 1884. All images belong to sources cited below.

Valentine’s Day can be a difficult holiday for bar and restaurant operators. These tips can help overcome the challenges.

BentoBox has identified Valentine’s as the day restaurants have the most last-minute reservations placed. The days leading up to the holiday see an increase in reservations of 75 percent. Taken together, these datapoints are a snapshot of the Valentine’s Day labor and scheduling challenges restaurant owners face.

There are bars that take reservations and they’ll face a similar issue. But what most bars face is slowed traffic, in terms of couples. The reasons are simple enough to understand: fine-dining and upscale restaurants pull traffic because people think “fancy” dinner is expected.

Another challenge bar and restaurant operators face: the themes of their holiday marketing and promotions. Do they lean into the romantic or overly cute elements, making everything red or pink? Should they pursue Singles Day or Anti-Valentine’s Day instead?

Give this a read: How to Improve Business with a Guest Journey Map

Since they shared such excellent insight into succeeding with the big game on Sunday, we asked operators and marketing experts Nick Fosberg and Doug Radkey for their top Valentine’s Day tips. They delivered spectacularly.

Nick Fosberg, founder & CEO of Bar Restaurant Success

Most bar owners would agree that Valentine's Day isn't a big money maker for them. But it could be, if they thought outside the box a little bit. Here's a few marketing and promotional tips for bar owners who are looking to increase sales on Valentine's Day. 

The first thing you need to think about is this specific day. What's it about. Who's going to celebrate it? And if they are going to celebrate it, are they going to a bar? Or are they going to a fancy restaurant? 

Being a bar owner myself, you really have 3 key audiences to target and create a promotion for on Valentine's Day. You've got:

  1. couples who just don't care about the fancy dinner;
  2. single men; 
  3. and single women.

Understanding your market now allows you to start building a promotion. Keep in mind, I don't know your concept, I don't know your audience, but I'm going to give you a few simple ideas just about any bar can do for a V-Day promo.

Idea #1: Packages & Marketing

One, you can create group packages for men and women for food and drinks. However, what's more important than the packages is how you market them and your marketing message. What are you going to say within your marketing to “persuade” these people to choose your bar over anywhere else, let alone leave the house?

My advice would be within your e-mail, social media posts, etc., is go against what Valentine’s Day is all about. Here's an example:

"If you're single man or woman and all this Valentine's Day stuff you're seeing all over the place is making you sick to your stomach, we're with you. We're not a fancy restaurant with fine wine and white linens. However, we are celebrating Valentine's differently than everywhere else, and it definitely beats sitting at home..."

Idea #2: Promotions & Call to Action

Then you'd dive into your promotions, what you're offering, and include a call to action. My advice would be to presell packages to groups of four to ten people. Call your promotional packages “V-Day with the Boys" and “V-Day with the Girls.” Pre-sell these ahead of time or take reservations.

Bring in a DJ. Make it fun. You could ask each person to write out on a piece of paper the worst experience they've ever had with their ex or on a date. They give their stories to the DJ and he or she announces them out loud. I'm sure you'd hear some pretty funny stories!

You could do a speed dating promo as well, which can be executed via a speed dating service or hosted by someone competent on your team.

Idea #3: Marketing to Couples

Another idea for your marketing related to not going to go “single” route. You could go after couples who are not looking for a fancy dinner and come up with a dinner-for-two package. Get some prizes and giveaways for after dinner. I did this for New Year’s this past year and we packed the place with pre-sold reservations.

The way I advertised it was on Facebook with ads. And I said, “If you're not looking to sit in some fancy restaurant and pay for over-priced wine and steak this New Year’s, and if you don't feel like getting overdressed, you can celebrate with us instead and get the same steak dinner for 1/2 the cost while being casual!”

There are a lot of people who want to celebrate V-Day or New Year’s but don't want to get all dressed up and fancy. They are just easygoing bar people. That's who you want to cater to, so wrap your marketing message around them. Resonate with your target audience—talk to them!

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This is the biggest mistake so many owners make. They just shout out their prices and specials but never use the written word to persuade their customer to understand why they should do business with them versus everyone else or sit at home.

These are just a few ideas and strategies for you. But let’s face it: bars are not your ideal place for Valentine's Day promotions for brand-new couples when the one person needs to prove themselves. We are ideal for singles and the couples who've been with each other for years and just like to have fun and keep it simple.

If you'd like two other promotions that you're competition hasn't thought of, here are two articles about successful promotions that I've run in the past for myself and clients:

Outrageous February Bar Promotion To Pack In Single Women

How To Giveaway Diamonds On Valentine's Day But Make Someone Else Pay For It!

Doug Radkey, founding partner of KRG Hospitality, Nightclub & Bar Show 2020 speaker

This year, restaurants and bars can really take advantage of the occasion with Valentine’s Day falling on a Friday. While many will opt for going out Friday evening, don’t be afraid to extend the promotion into your Saturday offerings as well to maximize your potential.

It must be more than just appropriate pairings. For on-premise opportunities, ensure—if you’re not doing so already—that you create a full sensory experience. Consider visuals, sound, smell, and taste with each decision you make.

Consider having a photographer on hand to take photos of guests at their tables or along a red carpet entrance. This will create social media content and a memory for the guests without service staff being interrupted or without the awkward and dreaded “table selfie.”

For Couples

You don’t have to be a fine-dining restaurant to create and promote a prix fixe Valentine’s Day menu that includes innovative, aphrodisiacal add-ons. The prix fixe menu approach simplifies the ordering process: it creates efficiency within the kitchen and bar and controls costs, while adding the aphrodisiacs helps elevate the senses for the special occasion. This is an opportunity for your bar and culinary teams to get creative within the confines of your concept.

Develop partnerships and collaborations in the area. Work with your F&B suppliers for cross-marketing opportunities within your prix fixe menu which will either help lower costs or create a value-add to the guest.

Work with local hotels, spas, limo companies, and unique experience providers—wineries, breweries, distilleries, axe throwing venues, zip-lining, parachuting, etc.—to create the ultimate couple’s package. It’s up to you how far you take this to increase the experiential value for your guests.

Give this a read: The New Night Out: Eatertainment, Drink & Be Merry

Taking packages and collaborations one step further—develop a proposal package. How many people do you know who have proposed on Valentine’s Day? Most can raise their hands. Provide special arrangements for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to ensure it goes over smoothly.

For Singles

If the latest forecasts from Euromonitor are indeed true, “there will be more than 330 million people in the ‘developed world’ who will be living alone in 2020.” That’s a 20-percent increase in less than a decade.

Know your concept and target market. If you’re not attracting couples, target the many singles in your area. You can still create fun food F&B menus such as small tasting plates while elevating the personal experience throughout the four walls of your venue. From speed dating to in-house massages, makeovers, and game-time fun, friends and singles can enjoy a night out while the lovebirds enjoy their evenings elsewhere.

Cocktail Recipes

Below, you’ll find cocktails for your specialty Valentine’s, Galentine’s, Singles or Anti-Valentine’s Day menu. Cheers!

Vodka

Spiced Pear Martini by Grey Goose

Spiced Pear Martini

Recipe and image courtesy of Grey Goose

  • 1.5 oz. Grey Goose La Poire
  • 0.5 oz. Domaine de Canton Ginger Liqueur
  • 2/3 oz. Fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon Fresh clove
  • 1/3 oz. Ginger syrup
  • Fresh nutmeg and pear slice to garnish

Shake well and double strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with a sprinkle of fresh nutmeg and a pear slice.

A Rose by Any Other Name cocktail by Grey Goose

A Rose by Any Other Name

Recipe and image courtesy of Grey Goose

  • 1.0 oz. Rose-and almond-infused Grey Goose Vodka (see note)
  • 1/3 oz. Crème de Cacao Blanc
  • 1/3 oz. Rose liqueur
  • Rosé Champagne or Prosecco to top

Stir the Vodka and the Crème de Cacoa, rose liqueur and vodka. Strain into a flute and top with Champagne or Prosecco

For the infusion:

infuse one bottle with four large tablespoons of dried rose pedals. Add eight drops of organic almond essence. Strain the rose pedals after one to days or to taste.

Gin

A Martini by Any Other Name cocktail by The Lobby Bar at The New York EDITION

A Martini by Any Other Name

Recipe and image by The Lobby Bar at The New York EDITION

Muddle rose petals in a mixing glass. Add Hendrick’s, Lillet, Italicus, bitters and ice. Stir and strain into a Nick & Nora glass. Garnish with rose petal fan.

The Hummingbird Martini cocktail by The Botanist Gin

The Hummingbird Martini

Recipe and image courtesy of The Botanist Gin

  • 2 oz. Fresh-raspberry-infused The Botanist Gin
  • 1 oz. Bianco vermouth
  • 2 dashes Orange bitters
  • Fresh raspberries to garnish

Strain fresh raspberries from The Botanist Gin. Add the ingredients to a mixing glass. Add ice and stir. Strain into a chilled coupe glass. Garnish with fresh raspberries.

For the infusion:

Add crushed fresh raspberries to a mixing glass with The Botanist Gin. Let sit for 10 minutes. Strain.

Rumination cocktail by Boulton & Watt

Rumination

Recipe by Boulton & Watt. Image: Ryan Gleason

  • 1.5 oz. London Dry Gin
  • 0.75 oz. Lavender syrup
  • 0.5 oz. Bénédictine
  • 0.5 oz. Lemon juice
  • 2 dashes Peach bitters
  • 2 dashes Angostura Bitters
  • Lavender sprig to garnish

Shake all ingredients together and strain into a glass piled high with crushed ice. Garnish with a sprig of lavender.

Tequila

The Nocturnal Burn cocktail by Beautiful Booze for Volcán De Mi Tierra

The Nocturnal Burn

Recipe by Beautiful Booze. Image: Volcán De Mi Tierra

  • 2 oz. Volcán De Mi Tierra Cristalino infused with roasted cacao nibs
  • ¾ oz. Ancho Chili liqueur
  • ¾ oz. Sweet vermouth
  • 2 dashes Orange bitters
  • 1 dash Aromatic bitters
  • Flamed orange peel to garnish

Combine ingredients in a mixing glass and stir with ice. Strain into a chilled coupe. Cut a thick swath of orange peel and briefly heat it with a match. Squeeze the peel over the match flame directly over the drink, igniting the citrus oils. Then garnish with the orange peel.

Berry Sencillo cocktail by 1800 Tequila

Berry Sencillo

Recipe and image courtesy of 1800 Tequila

  • 2 oz. 1800 Silver tequila
  • 1 oz. Fresh lime juice
  • ½ oz. Agave nectar
  • 5 blackberries
  • Lime wheel to garnish

In a shaker, combine all ingredients with ice. Shake hard for 15 seconds. Pour into a rocks glass with crushed ice, and garnish with a lime wheel.

Hibisco Disco cocktail

Hibisco Disco

Recipe by Trademark Taste+Grind. Image: Jenna Murray/IGC Hospitality

  • 2 oz. Ilegal Mezcal
  • 3/4 oz. Cherry hibiscus syrup (see note)
  • 3/4 oz. Lime spritz
  • Orange flower water
  • Edible flowers to garnish
  • Edible glitter to garnish

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake, then strain into a Nick & Nora glass. Decorate with edible flowers and glitter.

For cherry hibiscus syrup:

Steep hibiscus tea in simple syrup overnight (longer for a sweeter flavor). Mix with an equal amount of Cherry Heering.

Liqueur

The Honey Rose Margarita cocktail by Cointreau

The Honey Rose Margarita

Recipe and image courtesy of Cointreau

  • 1 oz. Cointreau
  • 2 oz. Blanco tequila
  • 1 oz. Fresh lemon juice
  • 0.5 oz. Honey water
  • 2 dashes Rose water
  • Fresh or dehydrated rose petals to garnish

Add all ingredients to shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a rocks glass over ice. Garnish with rose petals.

Rosé Sangria cocktail by Park Avenue Tavern

Rosé Sangria

Recipe by Park Avenue Tavern. Image: Jenna Murray/IGC Hospitality

  • 12 oz. #InGoodCo Rosé
  • 4 oz. Nardini Acqua di Cedro (lemon-like citrus liqueur)
  • 2 oz. Strawberry lemon syrup (see note)
  • 2 oz. Fresh lemon juice
  • Club soda to top
  • Fresh strawberries, apples and orange slices for sangria
  • Orange and/or lemon wheels to garnish

Combine ingredients in a pitcher and top with cut apple, strawberries, and club soda. Serve in wine glasses garnished with orange or lemon wheels.

For strawberry lemon syrup:

  • 1.5 cups Chopped Strawberries
  • 1 cup Sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • Half a lemon, chopped with peel still on
  • 2 to 4 oz. Boiling water

Muddle ingredients together in boiling water to break down the sugar and salt. Allow to sit for two hours, then strain the liquid through a double-mesh strainer before serving.

Rum

Match Made in Haven cocktail by RumHaven

Match Made in Haven

Recipe and image courtesy of RumHaven

  • 2 oz. RumHaven Caribbean Rum (made with coconut liqueur and coconut water)
  • 2 oz. Pineapple juice
  • 2 oz. Ruby Red Grapefruit juice
  • Pineapple or grapefruit wedges to garnish

Add all ingredients to an ice-filled Collins glass, stir to combine and chill. Garnish with pineapple or grapefruit wedges.

Bananas for You cocktail by Santa Teresa

Bananas for You

Recipe and image courtesy of Santa Teresa

Stir with ice and strain. Float a very thin layer of banana cream on top. Pour into a Nick & Nora glass. Garnish with banana ash dusted across half the cream float.

Lovebird cocktail by Santa Teresa

Lovebird

Recipe and image courtesy of Santa Teresa

  • 1.5 oz. Santa Teresa 1796
  • 0.5 oz. White Crème de Cacao
  • 0.75 oz. Raspberry syrup
  • 0.75 oz. Fresh lemon juice
  • 1 oz Egg white
  • Dehydrated raspberry powder to garnish

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker and shake without ice. Add ice and shake vigorously. Double strain into cocktail glass. Garnish with dehydrated raspberry powder.

Why So Blue(berry) Lemonade cocktail by Anthony Bohlinger for Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum

Why So Blue(berry) Lemonade

Recipe created by Anthony Bohlinger. Image: Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum

  • 2 parts Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum
  • 1 part Blueberry puree
  • 3 parts Lemonade
  • 4 Blueberries
  • Lemon wedge and blueberries to garnish

Muddle blueberries in bottom of pint glass. Add ingredients and ice. Stir. Garnish with lemon wedge and blueberries.

Whiskey

Uncle Nearest Cupid’s Daiquiri cocktail by Kala Ellis from O-Ku

Cupid’s Daiquiri

Created by Mixologist Kala Ellis at O-Ku in Nashville, TN. Image: Uncle Nearest

Combine all ingredients to a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake well and strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with lemon zest.

Heaven’s Door Rye Old Fashioned

Heaven’s Door Rye Old Fashioned

Recipe and image courtesy of Heaven’s Door

  • 2 parts Heaven’s Door Straight Rye Whiskey
  • 3 dashes Angostura Bitters
  • Pinch of raw sugar or sugar cube
  • Orange peel

Muddle bitters and sugar in rocks glass. Add large ice cube or sphere and whiskey. Stir, express orange peel, and garnish with peel.

Love this type of content? Don't miss "Drink Like You Give a F*ck" presented by Trash Tiki, learning about the Earn Your Booze mindset, "The New Normal in Drinking" presented by Jacob Halls, "Creating Immersive Bar Experiences" by Derek Brown of Columbia Room, "Creating World-class Guest Experience at the World's Best Bar" featuring Linden Pride of Dante in NYC, and "Best Practices When Working with Social Media Influencers" with Natalie Migliarini of Beautiful Booze, Jabin Troth of Licensed to Distill, and Adam Rains of The Golden Tiki, all at Nightclub & Bar Show 2020. Register today!

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